- Eichmann, Adolf
- (1906–1962)Because of his trial in Israel in 1961, Eichmann has become, perhaps, the most widely known Nazi perpetrator of the Holocaust. Eichmann moved to Germany after the Austrian Nazi Party was banned in 1933. In Germany, he enlisted in the Austrian unit of the Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1934 and volunteered to work in the central office of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) where, in 1935, he was placed in charge of the “Jewish question.” Unlike Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, or Reinhard Heydrich, Eichmann was not a fanatic, although he was to devote his political life to the implementation of the Final Solution.During the 1930s, he was one of those charged with devising a plan to rid Germany of its Jewish population. In 1937, he visited Palestine and met with Zionist groups that were involved in Aliya Bet, the Yishuv-sponsored operation to illegally smuggle Jewish refugees into the future Jewish state. Following the German annexation of Austria in 1938, Eichmann was sent by Heydrich to organize the emigration of its Jews. Eichmann set up the Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration (Zentralstelle fur Judische Auswanderung) in Vienna, which proved so successful that he subsequently was ordered to organize a similar office in Germany. In 1939, he was assigned to the Jewish section of the Reich Security Main Office Bureau (RSHA), where he worked on the proposed resettlement plans for the Jews in the Lublin region and the aborted Madagascar Plan.Eichmann’s reputation, as the leading “expert” on the Jewish question, was enhanced by his participation in the Wannsee Conference in January 1942. Heydrich subsequently placed him in charge of implementing the Final Solution. Eichmann approached his task with zeal and immersed himself in every aspect of the killing process. He enthusiastically monitored the gassing techniques in the extermination camps, as well as organizing the deportations to the death camps. Eichmann approached his responsibilities with bureaucratic efficiency and was determined to implement the murder of European Jewry in an impersonal and efficient manner.Hannah Arendt has argued that Eichmann personified the “desk murderer,” ordering the murder of millions without leaving his office. But in Budapest in March 1944, Eichmann left his desk and actively participated in directing the deportation of Hungary’s 437,000 Jews to Auschwitz. After the war, Eichmann was able to escape to Argentina, where he lived under an assumed name until Israeli agents kidnapped him and put him on trial in 1961. Having been found guilty, he was sentenced and executed in 1962.
Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. Jack R. Fischel. 2014.